March of Dimes provides $2.7 million in new funding for preterm birth research

February 11, 2009

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., FEB. 11, 2009 - Scientists intend to identify microbes that may cause preterm labor in some women, investigate the role of an enzyme in preventing uterine contractions and an early birth, and look at different groups of women to find genetic and environmental risk factors for prematurity.

The work of seven researchers will be supported for the next three years by new March of Dimes Prematurity Research Initiative (PRI) grants. The nearly $2.7 million in new grants continues March of Dimes support for efforts to predict and prevent preterm birth. These 2009 grants bring the five-year-old program's grant total to nearly $14 million.

"This research is critical to ending the epidemic of preterm birth," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the organization. "That's why we created the PRI grants and continue to award them even in these difficult economic times. Because the goal is for every baby to be born healthy and full-term."

Jennifer Condon, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh, is one of the new PRI grant recipients who's seeking clues to what causes both normal labor and premature labor. Her work focuses on an enzyme called caspase-3 that typically is involved in cell turnover.

"We think we've found a central mechanism for why the pregnant uterus usually stays quiet for nine months," Dr. Condon says. "Caspase-3 may be what prevents the uterus from contracting during a normal, healthy pregnancy. We hypothesize that inappropriate elimination of this enzyme from the pregnant uterus may be the cause of the onset of preterm labor."

Caspase-3 is positively regulated by progesterone and other studies have shown that regular injections of a form of progesterone found naturally during pregnancy can prevent some preterm births in women who have had a prior preterm birth.

"The March of Dimes is the only major health charity supporting basic research on the causes of premature labor, so we're extremely fortunate to receive this grant," Dr. Condon said.

The March of Dimes calls on the federal government to fully fund the PREEMIE Act of 2006, which expands federal research on preterm labor and delivery, and the care and treatment, and outcomes of preterm and low birthweight infants, Dr. Howse said.

In December 2008, the March of Dimes and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund co-sponsored "Preventing Prematurity: Establishing a Network for Innovation and Discovery," a meeting that brought together about 200 researchers from around the world to establish new partnerships on the problem of preterm birth and inspire other scientists to pursue studies in this area so crucial to maternal and infant health.

Preterm birth (before 37 completed weeks gestation) is a leading cause of infant death in the United States. Babies who survive an early birth often face serious and sometimes lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, developmental delays, vision loss and cerebral palsy. More than 543,000 babies are born too soon each year and recent federal statistics show that the nation's preterm birth rate has risen to 12.8 percent -- a 36 percent increase since the early 1980s.

The 2009 PRI grant recipients are:
-end-
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for BabiesSM, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.

For more information contact:
Elizabeth Lynch, (914) 997-4286, elynch@marchofdimes.com
Todd Dezen, (914) 997-4608, tdezen@marchofdimes.com

March of Dimes Foundation

Related Preterm Birth Articles from Brightsurf:

Researchers develop app to determine risk of preterm birth
An improved mobile phone app will help identify women who need special treatments at the right time and reduce emotional and financial burden on families and the NHS.

Point-of-care diagnostic for detecting preterm birth on horizon
A new study provides a first step toward the development of an inexpensive point-of-care diagnostic test to assess the presence of known risk factors for preterm birth in resource-poor areas.

WVU biostatistician studies link between microbiome and preterm birth
Pregnant African American women are more likely than white women to give birth prematurely, but they're underrepresented in studies of preterm birth rates.

3D-printed device detects biomarkers of preterm birth
Preterm birth (PTB) -- defined as birth before the 37th week of gestation -- is the leading complication of pregnancy.

Association of quitting smoking during pregnancy, risk of preterm birth
This study of more than 25 million pregnant women reports on rates of smoking cessation at the start of and during pregnancy and also examines the association of quitting cigarette smoking and the risk of preterm birth.

Blood test developed to predict spontaneous preterm birth
Results from a multicenter study show that five circulating microparticle proteins found in first-trimester blood samples may provide important clues about risk of spontaneous preterm birth.

Scientists gain new insight on triggers for preterm birth
A group of scientists led by Ramkumar Menon at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have gained new insight on a poorly-understood key player in the timing of labor and delivery.

Medically assisted reproduction does not raise risk of preterm birth and low birth weight
Study shows that couples can decide about using medically assisted reproduction free from concerns about increasing the health risks to their baby.

Risk of preterm birth reliably predicted by new test
Scientists at UC San Francisco have developed a test to predict a woman's risk of preterm birth when she is between 15 and 20 weeks pregnant, which may enable doctors to treat them early and thereby prevent severe complications later in the pregnancy.

Preterm birth leaves its mark in the functional networks of the brain
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Hospital, Finland, have proven that premature birth has a significant and, at the same time, a very selective effect on the functional networks of a child's brain.

Read More: Preterm Birth News and Preterm Birth Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.